For the past two nights, a shorthanded Giants lineup has looked anything but, knocking around Washington Nationals starters Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez for a combined 12 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Missing three lineup regulars, the Giants are hanging in the National League West race.
Consider, then, what the St. Louis Cardinals are doing this season. They have not had ace Adam Wainwright most of the year, and first baseman Matt Adams and outfielders Matt Holliday and Jon Jay are all on the disabled list. Yet entering play Sunday, the Cardinals were 34 games over .500 at 75-41, the best record in the majors.
After Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals – in which they’ll send ace Madison Bumgarner to the mound looking for a sweep – the Giants will hop a flight to St. Louis for a three-game series. In fact, six of their next 14 games come against the Cardinals, who also visit AT&T Park for a three-game series at the end of the month.
“They’re so balanced,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday morning. “They just play well – well-managed, play well, catch the ball. They’ve been so consistent, too, all year. They’ve stayed away from long skids, and that’s always I think the model of a good club is the consistency that they have.”
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The Giants, on the other hand, have been quite streaky this season. After losing four in a row in Chicago to end their last road trip, they have won four of five games to start this homestand and broke out the bats the past two games for 20 runs against a formidable Nationals pitching staff.
Bochy said that first and foremost against the Cardinals, “We’re going to have to pitch well.” Right now, the Giants’ starter for Wednesday’s game in St. Louis is still listed as TBA. That would be Matt Cain’s turn in the rotation, but Cain has struggled in his last four outings and is not a lock to pitch Wednesday. Mike Leake is expected to return from the DL to start Tuesday, and the Giants have Ryan Vogelsong as an alternate option.
Cain did throw a bullpen session Sunday that Bochy said went well. Pitching coach Dave Righetti watched Cain throw, and Bochy said Righetti told him Cain “had a real good bullpen – really excited, encouraged about the way he threw the ball. Obviously now has to carry that into a game.”
The Giants have Nori Aoki along in St. Louis. Aoki is expanding his activities and Bochy said he’s still confident the outfielder will be ready to come off the concussion DL when his seven days are up Thursday.
“He’s got his energy back,” Bochy said. “That’s what really hits you with a concussion – you’re dragging all the time. And that’s left him.”
Angel Pagan and Joe Panik, meanwhile, will both head to Arizona when the Giants leave to continue their rehab. Panik is on the DL with back inflammation, and Bochy said he’ll see a back specialist the Giants have in Arizona.
Catcher Andrew Susac checked out fine after playing with Triple A Sacramento on Saturday night and will catch for the River Cats again today. Bochy said the Giants will then make a call on whether to recall Susac or give him a couple more games in the minors.
The Giants’ lineup for Sunday’s finale against the Nationals and their rookie right-hander Joe Ross:
And the Nationals’ lineup against Bumgarner, complete with Bryce Harper, who left the game Saturday after fouling a ball off his leg but is apparently OK: